Unauthorized use of association intellectual property should be curtailed

Unauthorized use of association intellectual property should be curtailed

Attorneys at Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross respond to questions about Florida community association law. The firm represents community associations throughout Florida and focuses on condominium and homeowner association law, real estate law, civil litigation, estate planning and commercial transactions. 

We recently have had a group of residents start a social media site for discussions about life in our community. The page appears to be “official” as it uses our community’s name and logo.

The comment section quickly became a gripe session and occasionally has content that is “adult” in nature. What can we do to make it clear this page is not authorized by the board and has no official ties to the association?

 With social media becoming the primary way many people communicate, forums such as the one you describe are becoming more prevalent. However, the name and logo of the association remains its intellectual property and unauthorized use can be — and in most cases should be — curtailed.

Permitting unauthorized usage of the association’s intellectual property can lead to the “dilution” of a trade name or trademark and weaken the association’s ability to protect it. In addition to usage in social media forums, dilution can occur as businesses and vendors in the neighboring community try to cash in on the association’s brand and reputation.

Whether this is a local car wash, shopping center or a realtor’s website, failure to address this encroachment sooner rather than later allows these businesses to develop their own trademark rights utilizing the association’s name.

Luckily, obtaining a state trademark registration for your association’s name and logo is not overly cumbersome or cost prohibitive. Doing so will put others on notice of your trademark, making it easier to compel others to cease and desist their unauthorized use of the association name and logo.

While it is not necessary to have an attorney to file a trademark application with the State of Florida, you should consider consulting your association’s counsel.

Discuss how broad or narrow your application should be and explore whether prior usage by other businesses might impact your claim, and whether there are copyright issues involving ownership of your logo and the artist or agency who designed it.

For a small investment, your association can obtain the peace of mind that its intellectual property is secure — and put a stop to your logo appearing on “unofficial” social media pages.

 Our association has a handyman that we regularly use as an independent contractor. It is only him and sometimes a helper. He does not have workers’ compensation insurance as he is legally exempt from being required to carry it.

Our management company is telling us we should not use this person if he is not insured. Our association has its own workers’ compensation insurance and general liability so I am not sure I understand the problem. What is your opinion on this topic?

A: Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for the tort of negligence. So, workers’ compensation protects the employer, not the association directly.

If an accident occurs, you have general liability insurance to cover the association and if the person somehow could prove he was an employee of the association, that is what the association’s workers’ compensation is for.

The downside of the employer not having workers’ compensation, is that if the employee gets hurt and the employer is not well financed, the injured person will only have one entity to sue — the association. If the employer has workers’ compensation, then some of the liability can be laid off on the employer and presumably less on the association.

But another real problem is that if the handyman causes damage to the association property or injures someone, he has no general liability insurance to pay for it.

For those reasons we do not recommend the association hire persons without workers’ compensation, even if not legally required and certainly not without general liability coverage.

Richard D. DeBoest, II Esq., is a co-owner and shareholder of the law Firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC.

Richard DeBoest, II Esq., is partner of the law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross. To ask questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: question@gadclaw.com.   

The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, or any of our attorneys.   

Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column. 


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